Student Services Overview

DATE: Saturday, July 28, 2012
TIME: 10:00 a.m.
PLACE: Room B, Ladera Lane campus
CANDIDATE: Melissa Mace
DISSERTATION TITLE: "The Flow of Memory: Finding the Past that is Present Within Us"
CHAIR: Dr. Dennis Slattery
READER: Dr. C. Estelle
EXTERNAL READER: Dr. Margaret Walker

Mace, M. (2012). The Flow of Memory: Finding the Past that is Present Within Us (Doctoral dissertation, Pacifica Graduate Institute, 2012)


This study explores how our stories emerge from the depths of memory, as the past is retraced and as we attach meanings to events. Meaning is both subjective and social in nature and is informed by emotions, intention, perception, images and reason. I have argued that we remember in different ways, and our memories are embedded and interwoven within a variety of social and cultural environments. The worldview that each of us creates is constructed out of the complex processes and interactions between various memory environments.

Autobiographical stories are embedded in the larger collective discourses of various memory communities; including family, religious, social and cultural groups. Memory communities are manifest primarily as allegiances that individual members keep alive in various ways. What is remembered is negotiable and grows out of the discourse between people and as the past is reinterpreted to fit present needs and perceptions. In this way, individuals face socially mediated pressures to accentuate certain details while disregarding, or even forgetting, others. It is nearly impossible to detect the process of negotiation and contestation of these competing memory communities. Indeed, it is only in retrospect that we can reconsider how these influences effect lived experience.

From earliest childhood we tell one another the developing stories of our lives and convey to others the meaning we now attribute to these significant life experiences. In sharing her story, the narrator makes sense of her past and perceived present in an interpretive way. The process of sharing life stories facilitates a clearer understanding of experience, feelings about those experiences and provides an opportunity to understand why things happened as they did. Our stories are a method of gathering and weaving together the accumulated details, images and impressions into a narrative whole. It is not always clear how the story will come together, until the narrator begins to tell it. Our narratives are embedded in a series of stories within stories, illuminating the ways in which the “truth” of the past can sometimes be difficult to ascertain.